Small Business Spotlight: Blue Diamond Gemstone Panning

Diana Urieta of Raleigh, left, and her daughter Lizzie, 5, sift through sand and dirt, searching for treasures. Chrystal Holder, right, of Garner, admires what her daughter Zariah, 6, has found.

Generations of children have discovered buried treasure at Blue Diamond Gemstone Panning in Cary, and the business continues to attract pretend pirates and wannabe archaeologists.

Founded more than 30 years ago by the current owner’s grandfather, the business was originally called Panner’s Creek. The name might be different, but the vision of the business hasn’t changed in all that time. Kyle and Melissa Hathcock took over the operation four years ago, and it remains an educational, fun and safe way to explore the earth and the treasures it holds.

Currently open only on Saturday and Sundays, the business is a popular spot for birthday parties. But Melissa Hathcock says it’s not just kids who come out looking for fossils, gems and gold nuggets.

“I’d say the average age for kids parties here would be 5 to 7,” she said, “but honestly we almost get more young adults and teens out here for panning.”

The business has built a reputation for customer service and for teaching curious youngsters about geology. Former owner Phil Hathcock, owner of Natural Stone Sculptures and father of Kyle Hathcock, shows up at Blue Diamond most weekends, eager to pass on his knowledge of fossils, gemstones, and ancient stone artifacts.

Melissa Hathcock recently unearthed some gems about the business and the benefits of working with family.

Miles Saad, 6, carries a full bucket out of the mineral cave attraction, built for young rock hounds to dig as much as they want.

How has the business changed over the years?

Blue Diamond actually has a long history in Cary. This small business started as Panner’s Creek by my husband’s dad and grandpa over 30 years ago.

My husband and I reopened as Blue Diamond Gemstone Panning four years ago. The business has really grown in this short time with birthday parties being a big hit. We also offer a mobile sluice, perfect for parties at your house, field trips, school PTA events, and church events.

It’s a really fun outdoor experience for kids and adults.

An activity for all ages, panning for gems entertains 20-month-old Sloane Saad and her grandfather Magdy Saad.

What has been the best thing about owning the business?

The best thing about being a business owner is that it’s a family business, meaning you will see all of us here, our kids included. We can have our kids with us and teach them about running a business. It’s so fun to watch them learn and try to help out!

What has been the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge has probably been COVID. Although I will say, our customers have been so supportive and we are really thankful for them. We’ve been able to space people out and rent out time slots for the weekends. This has allowed adequate space for panning and time to clean. It’s been a learning curve for sure, but we are grateful to still be in business and overcome this challenge as a family.

Isaac Saad, 6, of Raleigh says, “I found a tooth!”

Where does Blue Diamond get the gemstones and fossils?

Most of our gems come from the North Carolina mountains, but we do source some of our more uncommon gems from all over the world.

Is there a secret to business success?

I wouldn’t say there is a secret to long-term success, but I would say if your customers have a good time, you treat them right, and you enjoy what you do, then your business will last as long as you remember what’s important.

Quartz and various fossils are some of the items to be found at Blue Diamond Gemstone Panning in Cary.

Blue Diamond Gemstone Panning
1823 Highway 55 West, Cary
(919) 760-0225

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